Learn how to avoid getting sick for a happy, healthy holiday season!
Between the flu, COVID, and holiday travel, many people are searching for ways to avoid getting sick this holiday season. So, what can you do to improve your immune system in the colder, darker months?
Here are a few of our top ways to boost your immune system and have a happy, healthy holiday season!
Green, leafy vegetables are rich in the vitamins and minerals you need to support a healthy immune system. Dark, leafy greens are good sources of folate, iron, calcium, and vitamin C.These vegetables also play an important role in regulating your immune system by encouraging immune cells in your gut to function effectively.
Here are a few examples of what to add to your holiday cooking for an improved immune system:
Viruses can enter your respiratory tract through the eyes, nose, or mouth. You can get infected just by touching a contaminated surface and touching your face shortly after. Limiting your exposure to germs is the best way to stay healthy.
Washing your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and warm water is a great way to protect yourself from viral infections. The CDC states that proper hand washing can result in a 16–21 percent decrease in respiratory illnesses like colds and the flu.
Here are other ways to practice effective hygiene:
Wash your hands before eating or preparing food
Wash your hands before putting in contact lenses or any other activity that requires you to touch your eyes or mouth
Wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds and scrub under your fingernails
Carry hand sanitizer for on-the-go use
Disinfect shared surfaces like keyboards, phones, and door handles
Recent research indicates that over 40% of Americans aren't getting enough Vitamin D, especially in the winter. Vitamin D deficiencies can lead to symptoms like cardiovascular problems and a weakened immune system.
Children and adults up to age 70 require around 600 IU of vitamin D daily. This can come from a combination of food sources and sunlight.
Results from a large 2012 study suggest that all children should have their vitamin D levels monitored due to frequent deficiencies. Monitoring vitamin D levels is particularly important for those with dark skin since they don't get it as easily from sunlight exposure.
Many foods are good sources of vitamin D, including eggs, mushrooms, salmon, canned tuna, and cod liver oil. Others, like orange juice and soy milk, are often fortified with vitamin D. You can also purchase vitamin D supplements at your grocery store or pharmacy.
Regular physical activity can improve your overall health while reducing the risk of many common illnesses, including:
In addition to these benefits, research from 2016 indicates that physical activity can also improve your immune function and decrease your risk of respiratory infections.
One 2018 study examined the benefits of meditation and exercise for preventing acute respiratory infections. The 8-week study followed nearly 400 participants, who the researchers had randomly assigned to one of three groups:
no training (control group)
mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) training
moderate-intensity exercise (EX) training
Compared with the control group, the researchers reported a 14–33 percent reduction in the number of acute respiratory infections among participants in the MBSR and EX groups. Those in the MBSR and EX groups who developed acute respiratory infections also experienced less severe symptoms.
The US Department of Health and Human Services states that any amount of physical activity is better than none. However, to experience significant health benefits, they recommend adults do a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. Seventy-five minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week has similarly positive effects to help you avoid getting sick.
The National Health Service states that flu viruses can survive on surfaces for up to 24 hours. That leaves a lot of time for germs to spread between family members. For instance, one sick child can pass their illness to the entire family in an unhygienic environment.
To avoid passing germs between family members or coworkers, keep your personal items separate.
Items to keep away from others include:
cooking or eating utensils
glasses and mugs
Make sure to clean contaminated items — especially shared toys — in warm, soapy water.
Like other parts of the body, your mouth houses a lot of bacteria.
Since your mouth is the entry point to your respiratory and digestive tract, staying on top of your oral hygiene is essential for improving your overall immune function. Good oral healthcare like brushing and flossing daily generally keep bacteria at healthy levels. However, if you start to slack on your oral hygiene, you increase your risk of infection.
Your oral health can contribute to various health conditions, including pneumonia, cardiovascular disease, and even pregnancy complications.
One recent study published during the pandemic showed particularly promising results. This study confirmed that catechins, found mainly in green tea, show antiviral activity against various acute infectious diseases. The 255 healthcare workers who consumed a catechin-containing drink for 12 weeks cut their risk of upper respiratory tract infections by half when compared to the control group.
Staying healthy requires more than just eating healthy when you don't feel well. Regular exercise, green tea, and practicing good hygiene all play into helping your body feel and perform at its best. Your body works hard to protect you, so make sure you give it what it needs to function effectively.
If you're looking for more ways to stay healthy this holiday season, schedule your appointment with our team for personalized recommendations and a helping hand.
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